Superman’s conscience is tormenting him, and it all started when he met the Word-Bringer, an alien invader who kidnapped the entire population of a small town. This alien snatched their brains to further develop the Union, a hive mind conformed by th

Superman: Exile is a story arc that ran through all Superman titles published in 1989. It involves Superman's decision to self-exile after feeling he was dangerous to the people of Earth.

History

Before the Exile

Superman’s conscience is tormenting him, and it all started when he met the Word-Bringer, an alien invader who kidnapped the entire population of a small town. This alien snatched their brains to further develop the Union, a hive mind conformed by thousands of brains. Superman stops the Word-Bringer, and he then faces the dilemma of what to do with the brains held prisoner of the Union. Using their telekinetic powers, the Union knocks Superman unconscious. When he wakes up, he finds that the brains are now dead, believing he was manipulated to end their lives.[1]

He is troubled again with another difficult moral decision when he faces three Kryptonian criminals responsible for the extinction of the entire humanity in a pocket universe. Overwhelmed by this atrocity, Superman acts as a jury, judge, and executioner to prevent them from doing the same in another universe.[2]

This event would haunt Kal El and keep him up at night. During a confrontation with Vril Dox, Superman's grief explodes in a burst of anger, almost killing the frightened Brainiac. A second confrontation lead Superman to believe he was killing his coworkers at the Daily Planet, and this battle ended with Brainiac faking his death, further tormenting Superman’s conscience.[3]

Brainiac's attempts to debase and enthrall Superman inadvertently led to him developing a split personality, adopting the Gangbuster persona at night in a sleepwalking state. During these nights, he acted as a brutal vigilante, the complete opposite of his daily Superman life.

This series of events makes him realize that his mental stability is just getting worse, and decides to exile himself before he hurts, or kills, anyone around him. Equipping an oxygen supply apparatus and an experimental teleportation device, he bids farewell to his family and flies far away from Earth.[4]

The Exile

Superman stumbles into many different locations in his journey, such as a desolated planet turned into a wasteland and an inhabited planet that praises him after saving the crew of a starship. The people of this world are thankful to Superman, but he is overwhelmed by the amount of praise and affection these people are giving him, so he flies away.[5]

After almost depleting his oxygen supply, he decides to backtrack to the inhabited planet, only to find it desolated by none other than the Word-Bringer. Superman follows the lead of the invader’s ship and is horrified to find thousands of living brains preserved in tanks. He is suddenly attacked and overpowered by Word-Bringer. To prove he is not a murderer, Hfuhruhurr lets Superman witness the birth of Eon, a powerful being conformed by thousands of minds, whose powers derive from the infinite knowledge of the members of the Union. Superman and Eon battle, while he tries to convince them that the Word-Bringer’s ways are wrong. During the fight, a member of The Union is accidentally killed. Superman tries to save them but fails. He contemplates the idea of executing the Word-Bringer. But the Union tells Superman they noticed how much he cared for the death of one. The Union also reveals that he was not responsible for the death of Word-Bringer's victims back on Earth, that they used their power to kill themselves when he was unconscious. This relieves the troubled Kryptonian. Eon and the Word-Bringer come to an understanding with Superman, saying that they will only take brains that are willing to join the Union, instead of forcing them. Superman tells them that he'll allow it, but if they screw it up, he will be back. Superman promptly leaves Word-Bringer's ship and flies off into space, resuming his journey.[6]

To Superman’s surprise, he arrives at a planet with an Earth-like atmosphere, with a prairie that reminds him of Kansas, the perfect place to settle and live in solitude. He builds a house made of clay, and he grows some crops similar to wheat. All his efforts are in vain because a storm wipes out the entire farm. Realizing the ecosystem on that planet is too unstable, Superman leaves, heartbroken. On the way out, he is intercepted by a meteor storm, and he takes all his frustration against those falling rocks. Unnoticed to him, one of those rocks damages his life support system, causing a leak in his oxygen supply.[7]

Slowly losing consciousness, Superman is again haunted by nightmares about the Kryptonian criminals he executed. He is then abducted by a spaceship and brought to Warworld as a gladiator to fight in Mongul’s games. Superman beats various opponents, but he refuses to kill, defying Mongul’s authority.[8] The tyrant defeats Superman in battle, and captures him as a prisoner, ready for execution. Superman’s actions motivate the people of Warworld to revolt and remove Mongul as their leader.

Superman’s presence is notified to the Cleric, an old alien who once preached on Krypton. Curious about Superman’s real heritage, he links with the Kryptonian’s mind and explores his memories. The Cleric saves Superman from being executed by teleporting him to his cave. There, both men experiment with the Eradicator, a powerful gadget made to conserve Krypton’s heritage, and they open each other’s minds to it. They explore their pasts, sharing their guilts and shames, including the execution of the Kryptonian criminals that burdens Superman’s conscience. Cleric convinces Superman to end his exile, to be Earth’s hero again, and accept his life instead of escaping from it.[9]

The Cleric passes the device on to Superman, but the old alien is rapidly aging and dying. Thankful for showing him his true destiny, Superman is ready to end his exile and return to Earth. He buries the Cleric and takes the Eradicator. With a simple command, the device teleports Superman to his home planet.[10]

Back on Earth

Superman’s triumphal return didn’t go unnoticed, as people all over Metropolis cheer for him, and his friends welcome him back with open arms. He feels like a new man, and he never felt happier to be home again. In the aftermath of his journey, Superman has to deal with the side effects of the Eradicator device [11] and with Matrix, who was impersonating Clark Kent during his absence.[12]

Issues




Recommended Reading

Links and References


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Superman Family Storyline
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